Holiday Hangover

Scraps of paper still litter the living room rug.  Bits of tape still adhere to the couch, and the carcasses of cardboard boxes are piled up next to the tree and out on the porch.  Leftover ham has found its way into the last 3 days of meals, and cheesecake keeps finding its way to my mouth. The lower 1/3 of our Christmas tree is bare of ornaments as the toddler in the house has stripped it clean and reallocated the decorations to different areas of the home. These are the remnants of a festive and fun Christmas.

We haven’t done much since Christmas day, other than taking our children to see “Frozen.” (Yes, folks, it is just as good the second time around!)  It has been a time of relaxation and (relative) quiet as the children play with their new toys and games. The excitement of the Christmas season is over, and the days are returning to the ordinary. No longer does the UPS man stop at our house on a daily basis. No longer do we find Christmas cards in the mail (well, maybe a few, from those stragglers who got theirs out late!).  The real world has re-entered our lives as the children begin to fight over those new toys. As the dishes in the sink pile up. As the bits of paper and tape and glitter from the wrappings seem to keep reappearing, no matter how many times I vacuum. As exhaustion creeps in after weeks of running ragged. As the radiator in the car has sprung a leak and we now need to squirrel together the funds to replace it. Yes, this is the real world.  A world filled with poverty, with problems, with grief and despair, anger and rejection.  THIS is the broken and dark world that the Christ child entered into so many years ago.

We have moved on from the excitement of Christmas. But shouldn’t the excitement be for the days AFTER Christmas?? Excitement with the realization that the Light of the world has broken through the darkness. From a dark womb, into a dark night, Emmanuel, God with us, has arrived into this world, bringing the light of Heaven with Him. A savior. This is where our true excitement should be. Not the wrappings and trappings of this world, but the realization of the next.  The realization that we have been set free. Free from the “wages of sin, which is death.” Free to receive the “gift of God, eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) This is what our focus should be on, where our excitement should lie.

I am a failure in this. I get so caught up in the day-to-day, in the ordinary, that I miss out on the extraordinary, the heavenly. Caught up in the fragments of daily living, I miss seeing the picture of wholeness and fullness that the Father has in store for us. Submerged in the mire of this world, I lose sight of my freedom, my redemption.

My sight is restored, however, through His grace and mercy. There are moments, glimpses of heaven. I see it in my children’s faces, as we pack shoeboxes to send across the world, or as we say our nightly prayers. Listening to their earnest prayers for others cause me to pause, and reflect on our blessings.  Going for a hike in the woods, and seeing the splendor of creation.  Having deep discussions of faith, mercy, and hope with others, even when our points of view differ, but still able to listen to one another with love.  Watching a bubble shimmer with all the radiance of heaven’s colors. Pausing to just drink in the moment, the air, the life, I have been blessed with. These are the moments when I see the extraordinary, even within the ordinary.

As we are about to usher in a new year, THIS is the season for excitement, renewal, refreshment. As we recover from all of our holiday madness, it is perhaps time to pause to reflect on the extraordinary wonder of the light which has overcome the darkness. To become excited about the greatest gift we have ever been given. The Light of the world, shining in the darkest of places, extraordinary even in the ordinary. This is what we cling to, what gives us hope, what shows the fulfillment of the promises made in Scripture.

Frozen

Yesterday we had our staff Christmas party for work. After a delicious lunch, and silly white elephant gift exchange, we headed out to do our staff activity. The original plan was to go bowling, but was changed in favor of seeing the Disney movie “Frozen.” Three of the seven of us had already seen it, but they enjoyed it so much that they were happy to see it again. So off we head, seven adults to go see a cartoon. Rather a silly sight…until you experience seeing this movie.

This is not a movie review, and I promise not to be a spoiler for those who haven’t seen the movie. I had high hopes for it going in….several friends had already shared how much they loved this film, and how wonderful it was both for their children and for them. And if it was a movie review….well, two thumbs up! =)  Fantastic music, enough silliness and giggles for the children, adventure, awesome animation….I could go on. And if you want to go and just enjoy, do that. Enjoy it for the spectacle that it is.

However, it can be so much more. It can be fodder for deep, stimulating conversations about the overarching themes of fear and love.  It can be a way to stir up discussions on longing, family, and sacrifice. Watching it with other adults can help you see the depth that lies under the laughter, the significance of the subtle. It brings scripture verses to mind:       1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out all fear… ” and John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

The basic premise begins with two sisters, Elsa (the older one) and Anna. Elsa was born with magical abilities of creating snow and ice. Her parents encouraged her to hide these abilities, out of fear of what those in the kingdom would think. The words “Conceal, don’t feel” were ingrained within her. Elsa grew older, becoming more fearful of her abilities, ostracizing those who loved her, and separating herself from the world. Hidden away, her fears grew, imprisoning her, while her sister Anna longed for the relationship they had as small children, ached for Elsa’s friendship and love. (Okay, that is all I will tell you about the movie, I swear. )

Conceal, don’t feel. How many times do we hear this? How often do we say it to others, to our children? Perhaps not those exact words, but haven’t we all heard and used phrases like “Boys don’t cry,” and “Suck it up, buttercup?”  In other words, don’t feel what you are feeling, or at the very least, don’t let us see it. We (the world) don’t appreciate knowing that you are hurting, that you are wounded. Keep it to yourself.

“Get over it.”

Conceal, don’t feel.

Let me tell you, people, this doesn’t work. Sure, being able to control your emotions is a good thing many a time.  Losing self-control in a fit of rage and running someone over with your car is not a good idea…..or even flicking them a certain finger in traffic isn’t such a polite outlet of anger. However, ignoring emotions, hiding them, pretending they aren’t there, never allowing the others in your life to see the depths of your pain, anger, sadness or frustration…it just doesn’t work. Eventually, it begins to destroy you, from the inside out. Anger simmers beneath the surface, threatening to blow up and wound those caught in its shrapnel. Anxiety clenches your belly, causing ulcers and other physical troubles. Fear cages you, shrinking the world around you, until the desire is to only do what you have always done, never enjoying new experiences, never challenging yourself to grow and change.  As a massage therapist, I was always fascinated by the way the body would hold on to emotions, and cause binding, restrictions and pain within the muscles. As people would talk about certain things, their bodies would react with the emotions, even when their faces and voices seemed unemotional. When we stifle our feelings, stuffing them down, concealing them from even ourselves, they come out eventually, in one way or another.  Our bodies don’t lie, even when our voices do.

Conceal, don’t feel.

It just doesn’t work to try to hide our emotions, not from others, not from ourselves, not from the One who created us to feel. The longer we hide who we are, our truest self, the more detached we become from that self.  It takes a lot of healing, a lot of work, a lot of prayer, to get back to that true self, back to the person God created us to be. It takes us being honest with ourselves first, and then with those around us. It takes a certain amount of vulnerability and courage,  trust in those we love, and a faith that Perfect Love will drive out the fear.

It takes a faith that we will still be okay, still be loved, even in our messiness, in our brokenness. Faith that those around us will stand by us, rooted and grounded in love.  Faith that our Heavenly Father will be our rock, our fortress against the world that batters us.  Faith that He will shepherd us in the way He promised, guiding us, gathering us to Him.  This is what we need, what we ache for in our dry bones, an aching to feel the fullness of what this life offers us, the spectrum of emotions we are capable of as humans, created in the image and likeness of the Creator.

This is what He desires, what He wants for us, for this full and beautiful life.

Feel, don’t conceal.

http://movies.disney.com/frozen/video/trailers

Mosaic

I have a million different ideas swirling around in my head, but it is difficult to grasp one idea, pin it down, and write about it. This fall has been a wonderful, emotional, and somewhat crazy season as I have been, once again, prompted, prodded, and pushed into uncomfortable honesty with myself. There have been things brought out in me during this season that I haven’t realized before…or wanted to face. A million different shards of a broken life, fractured and jagged,  and being put back together into a new mosaic, a new creation being formed by the greatest Artist.  I have had the opportunity to see glimpses of what this transformation is going to be, little looks at the bigger picture. As human beings, we only see the pieces around us, only a corner of the world. We cannot see the greater tapestry that our lives are woven into, a colorful, beautiful image reflecting the glory and wonder of the Creator.

I took an art class in high school experimenting with multiple art mediums. One of my favorite, and most frustrating, mediums was creating a stained glass piece. Every day that I would work with the glass, I would end up with cuts and slivers of glass embedded into my skin.  Scoring the glass, then snapping it off always caused me to flinch in fear, expecting that I would become injured by the razor-sharp edge of the glass. Each piece of glass would then rest in a groove of lead, suddenly safer to touch, nestled into its leaden home. A heat gun helped solder the lead together and suddenly, a picture began to emerge. It was inspiring to watch as every person created something different, even though we were given the same materials to work with.

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The broken edges of my own life tend to cause pain and injury to those I love, those that love me. My jagged sides leave wounds and scars on those I hold most dear, causing them to flinch in apprehension as my anger, my pain, bubbles up over the surface and sends its shards out into the world. I can be razor-sharp, and without care, I can wound others deeply. This is my brokenness, my sin, and it pains me to know that it is there. Pains me to know that my failings and faults as a person can be so hurtful.

But the joy found in that is that I know where my weaknesses are. I am aware of my own brokenness and aware of my tendencies to lash out when I feel threatened. I can feel the love of the Savior smoothing out those edges, and breaking off those pieces that are sharp and jagged. They will not rest in the home that has been prepared for me, and so they must be removed, sanded down, washed away. And that process can be painful. We are all so good at holding on to what is comfortable, what is “normal”, but that same stuff may be what weakens us, what soils us. We hold on to past hurts, past experiences, grasping them tightly even when their sharp edges cut us deeper. Allowing Jesus to take those from us can be an exercise of trust, and for so many, trusting is one of the hardest things to do. Letting go of the idea that I need to be the one who “does” something, and trusting Jesus to be the one to heal me, to love me,  is a huge step, and may feel impossible. Waiting on the Lord is a lesson in trust and a hard lesson to learn. But knowing Him now, resting in His peace, knowing that the work He is doing within me is so very needed….that is the beauty that comes from allowing Him to work with me, that is the freedom that arises from letting go. Letting go of those things that tear me apart, letting go of the old life, the lies, the poison of the past, and resting in the new. What was once a piece of glass, jagged and flawed, is slowly becoming a bigger part of a whole beautiful picture. And then there is the heat. As pieces come together, there takes heat to make them stick. Just as glass within lead needs to be soldered together, so it take refinement by fire to burn away that which is not needed.  It is through this process we are strengthened and brought together, one with another.

Stained glass windows are still one of my favorite things. I am in awe of the work that is needed to create the piece. The imagination and vision needed to create a picture made simply of glass and lead is astounding to me. Someday I hope to get to Europe and travel around, just to see the art and the architecture of old churches and buildings, and, of course, those beautiful windows.

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